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Plato and Descartes theories - Essay Example

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Though both seem to represent similar ideas, they are different in some ways which will be discussed in the paper.
Plato is of the view that knowledge is not acquired through sense experience; individuals are born with platonic ideas or forms (Popkin and Stroll, 225). These ideas are contained in the soul which exists prior to birth. To gain real knowledge, the soul has to recall platonic ideas. Plato assumes that children forget the knowledge they already have at birth and therefore, must regain consciousness and recall it. The knowledge recalled is the only true or certain knowledge since the knowledge acquired through sense experience is deceiving and uncertain. For him, the body is empty as it cannot access abstract reality of the world but only shadows (Robinson, 86). The soul and body are distinct but temporarily united until death where the soul leaves to occupy another body. He also observes that the forms or objects of knowledge are eternal, necessary and unchanging (Popkin & Stroll, 224). For example, numbers used in mathematics or geometrical truths which depend on ideas and meanings do not change. The shadows or diagrams can change but the procedures and reasoning lead us to acquire the truth about them.
Just like Plato, he agrees that senses cannot be trusted. Whatever we see through our senses can be deceiving and therefore not certain; for example, we may mistake one thing for another especially if we view it at a distance and when it is near. Senses are deceiving to the extent that we may not be aware whether we are existing or we are dreaming of our existence and therefore, to be certain, a lot of thinking is needed (Pessin). According to Popkin and Stroll (234) Descartes discovered that the certain thing is ‘I think, therefore I am.” In his meditations, he doubted whether he had a body but had no doubt that he had a mind since a mind must be in existence for him to think. He therefore, ...Show more


Many philosophers try to explain how knowledge is acquired, the extent of our knowledge and how reliability of the knowledge can be judged. Some claim that we cannot be certain of what we know but…
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Plato and Descartes theories
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